Metro-East News

St. Clair Township board hires attorney to examine legal options related to Swansea sewer contract

The St. Clair Township Board of Trustees on Tuesday night voted to hire an attorney who will determine the board’s legal options with regard to the St. Clair Township-Swansea Sewer Services Contract. The goal of the board is, ultimately, to reopen negotiations with the village.

Attorney Terry Bruckert, of Bruckert, Gruenke & Long PC in O’Fallon, said he will be looking at the contract to see what can be done “to improve or change certain provisions.”

“They want to know, with this contract in existence, can we go back and either renegotiate something or make other changes to the contract itself?” Bruckert said in an interview after the meeting. He estimated the cost of determining the board’s legal options would be between $2,000 and $3,000.

Supervisor Dave Barnes and Trustees Mary Carroll, Greg Hipskind and Keith Sturgis voted for hiring Bruckert, with Trustee Jaynie Wells voting present.

Wells said she did not feel the board was given enough information to make a decision.

For the last five months, the board has discussed the possibility of bringing back township sewer customers who are billed and serviced by Swansea to be billed and serviced by the township. Bruckert said he would also be examining the legality of this “as an option” for the board.

These customers had previously been billed by the township but Swansea had been servicing their waste water for many years. Swansea took over billing of the approximately 3,200 township residents on March 1 under a new sewer services contract with the township. The contract states sewer users located outside of Swansea will pay the village 1.3 times the rate residents pay. The township mandates those residents also pay a $7.34 monthly fee for the maintenance of township lines that transport the waste water to Swansea. The village collects the fee and sends the money to the township.

The residents affected by the contract have been vocal in their disapproval of the increased sewer rates.

St. Clair Township trustees started discussing options to improve the deal for township residents at their March meeting when it was suggested that some lift stations that have not been used in about 25 years could be brought back online.

Trustees decided an engineering study would need to be done to determine if it would be possible to accommodate the additional sewer customers the lift stations may be able to route to the township sewer plant. Barnes said between 1,500 and 1,800 residents could potentially be serviced by the lift stations.

Brian Buchheit of HMG Engineers Inc., said last month the cost of the study would be $4,700 initially, and if it moves to the second phase of study, the total cost would not exceed $10,000. Trustees did not vote on the proposed study at the June meeting because they felt the legality of taking customers from Swansea should be explored first.

In other business Tuesday night, Barnes informed the board that the first check had been received from the collection of transport fees. The check was for approximately $41,000, he said. The money will be added as a separate line item into the township sewer fund, which had about $4.8 million cash on deposit as of June 30, according to the treasurer’s report.

Swansea will also be sending the township a digital report detailing “who paid, who didn’t pay” the transport fee, according to Barnes.

“So we can follow up with that also,” Barnes said.

The board meets next at 7 p.m. Tuesday, Aug. 25, at the St. Clair Township Office, 107 Service St.

Contact reporter Lexi Cortes at acortes@bnd.com or 618-239-2528. Follow her on Twitter: @lexicortes.

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